December 20, 2013

4 of 2013's 5 Best Books...

While I work away on my best-of list for 2013 (and by "work away" I mean 'think about starting'), it occurs to me that his has been a really great year for books.
Here are four of my five favourites from this year... I highly recommend them all… my favourite will be in the next post… and in the comments tell me your faves from 2013!

Every decade or so, Tartt re-emerges and drops an amazing read in our laps… this one is about young Theo Decker, who emerges from a terrorist bombing motherless but in possession of a prized painting. Worthy of the many comparisons to Dickens, The Goldfinch is packed with adventure and ideas, and populated with colourful characters… it is about loneliness and isolation, survival and reinvention. Fascinating and suspenseful, it also holds to the unwavering belief that art can save us by lifting us above ourselves. Excellent book.

The Cuckoo's Calling got little notice at first, then it was revealed that the true author was Harry Potter author JK Rowling and it became a smash… and in her characteristic generous nature Rowling gave her resulting windfall to charity. The book itself is a thoroughly modern mystery, planned to be the first of a series, about a supermodel's death, and the down-on-his-luck grumpy PI who is hired to figure it out. It is fast and entertaining and I am already looking forward to the next instalment. Best compliment I can give is that I stayed up way too late on a work night to get to the end.

In the last few years I have devoured 23 of Sue Grafton's books, starting with A Is For Alibi and up to this fall's W Is For Wasted. Each is a mystery featuring California detective Kinsey Millhone; they are soulful meditations on friendship and self-awareness and life and loneliness and human nature. Okay I make them sound artsy and esoteric, and there are flashes of that, but these are simply really good reads from a really great writer. The only sad part is the countdown is on to the end of the series: X, Y, Z...

The second book from an author who was on the list last year, Gifts Not Yet Given is a collection of short stories, a format which unusually doesn't hook me, but these did. I did a full review here; have stories are  The Stepping Stone about a geeky son and his mother from hell, Holes about a life devastated by disease, and the title story about a family still struggling with a choice long in their past.  These stories are original and intriguing, and the characters are strong and flawed, loving and broken.